Apr 3, 2014

Tres leches Cake with Lychee Mousse filling and Chocolate Lace collar - for my Birthday boy!


Let me not even start with my usual rants about how busy days are going by and how I have treated my blog like an after-thought with very few posts of late. But truth is, I am sort of really really busy these days and all for good reasons and hopefully I can take a breather next month and share all the happenings with pride :-D  
But for today though I know it's April, I want to talk about March ...specially March 29th!! 

March is always a lovely month for us. It brings hope of spring after the dreadfull lull of winter, it's the month of so many of my favorite peoples b'days, my sis-in-law, bro-in-law and my hubbys. March 29th is doubly special coz it's both my hubby's b'day and also marks the anniversary of us moving into our new home and this year it was the 1st anniversary. Little things in life can hold so much importance.

Last year my parents were here and we had a lovely housewarming celebration on March 29th as we moved into our new home and also did a quick b'day cake cutting in between all the hussle and bussle of shifting. It all feels like yesterday. I totally miss my parents not being here this year.

This year I wanted Manish's b'day to be very memorable and also celebrate the 1st anniversary of our new house. A surprise lunch with friends, cake cutting and bowling was my initial plan. Though some of the plans changed over the course of the day, in all it was beautiful day, weather wise and celebration wise and we all had a blast!


As usual I decided to make his cake and this time I let him choose the flavor. I find making my own b'day cake quite weird so haven't done it yet, but you never know...lol! But for Manish and my lil'Appu I'm always game at making their b'day cakes ;-)




He chose the yummy Mexican cake flavor Tres Leches (three milks cake) and wanted Lychee fruit in it, so I decided a creamy Lychee mousse would be great. I initially planned to make just 1 sponge cake and make two layers filled with lychee mousse, but the cake looked short ;-) so I went and made one more sponge cake and trimmed it to just get 1 extra layer and the scraps were all happily eaten by the two boys at home (father n son)...so in total I got 3 layers for the final cake and I had just the right amount of lychee mouse for the filling and whipped cream to frost around the cake.


After the filling and frosting, my mind was quite blank as to how to finally decorate the cake. I saw a bag of candy melts in my pantry and thought why not try a chocolate collar around the cake. I have seen this decoration style in many party cakes and wanted to give it a try. 


And I love lace patterns, so a lace collar was what was in mind. I cut out a parchment paper that would exactly wrap around the side of the cake and made it slightly taller than the cake so that the collar would come above the cake level like a fence and made some patterns and wrapped it around the cake. Its a quick, easy and yet striking decoration idea.




And lastly I placed some chocolate shavings and chocolate triangle shapes in the centre and some whipped cream swirls topped with marachino cherries for a final touch and burst of color.


Cake cutting went great with friends singing Happy Birthday and kids waiting to attack at the chocolate collar....hehe. Lil'Appu always enjoys cake cutting. For some reason his face looks gloomy in this pic but he was a happy chap all throughout.

And don't you think my dress matches with the cake, purely coincidental but I loved it...haha!!



The cake was super moist and yummm and everyone devoured it and even came for second helpings. 


For the filling which was Lychee mousse, I used canned Lychee (easily available at all Asian or Indian grocery stores) . But I felt the Lychee mousse flavor wasn't so much pronounced, I had used only 1 can of lychee, I think 2 cans would have given a better flavor. 






Tres leches Cake with Lychee mousse filling and Chocolate Lace collar

Tres Leches cake is best prepared one day ahead for the cake to rest overnight and the milks to soak up the cake and make it moist and creamy. 
Assembling and frosting can be done the next day. So the recipe is explained in the way I made this cake.

** I baked two sponge cakes and made three layers with them. The recipe below is for ONE sponge cake.


You'll need

For Sponge Cake
Eggs (at room temperature) - 6
Granulated Sugar - 1 cup
Cake Flour - 1 cup
Baking powder - 1 tsp
Vanilla extract - 1 tsp
Water - 1 tblsp

For Three Milks syrup

Sweetened Condensed Milk - 1 can (14 oz)
Evaporated Milk - 1 can (12 oz) 
Heavy cream – 1 cup 

For Lychee Mousse
Canned Lychee, fruit only - 2 cans (I used Aroy-D brand)
Heavy whipping cream - 1/2 cup
Powdered sugar - 4 tblsp
Vanilla extract - 1 tsp
Gelatin - 1 pack (2 1/4 tsp)
Water - 3 tblsp

For whipped cream outer frosting

Heavy whipping cream - 1 cup
Powdered Sugar - 4 tblsp
Vanilla extract - 1 tsp

Directions

For Sponge Cake
1. Pre-heat oven to 350F. Butter and grease a 9" round baking pan.
2. Crack the eggs into the bowl of your mixer and start beating them on medium-high speed for 5 mins.
3. Slowly add in the sugar and continue to beat on high for another 5-7 mins until it looks smooth, pale yellow and has doubled in volume.
4. Add in vanilla extract and mix to combine.
5. Sift together the cake flour and baking powder in a separate bowl (atleast sift 2 times) and slowly add it into the egg-sugar mixture, very little at a time and slowly fold in it and incorporate it into the batter. 
5. Finally add the 1 tblsp water and mix until well combined. 
6. Pour into the greased baking pan and bake for 25-30mins. (a toothpick inserted into the cake should come clean)
7. Once out from oven, let it rest in the cake pan for 10 mins and then invert it onto a cooling rack and let it cool down completely.

Prepare Three milks Syrup

Into a large bowl, combine heavy cream, condensed milk and evaporated milk and stir well. Heat it in the microwave or on stove-top until it just starts to bubble (do not boil). Let it cool down completely.

Prepare Lychee Mousse

1. Strain the Lychee fruit from its syrup and puree only the Lychee fruit.
2. Beat the whipping cream on high speed until soft peaks form, add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and beat until slightly stiff peaks form and refrigerate the cream
3. In a bowl add 3 tblsp of water and add the gelatin powder and let it rest.
4. Heat the lychee puree until just warm to touch and add the gelatin to the puree and mix until fully dissolved. 
5. Add the cream little by little to the lychee puree and fold to combine.

Prepare whipped cream frosting

Beat the whipping cream on high speed until soft peaks form, add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and beat until stiff peaks form and refrigerate the cream. Do not overbeat.

Assembly of the Cake

Day 1
Make the sponge cake and the the three milks syrup. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours. 
Torte the sponge cake to desired number of layers (I made 3 layers, you can make 4 if you'd like) 
Poke each layer with a fork and generously drizzle or brush the entire cake with the Three milks syrup. Refrigerate each layer separately overnight. 

Day 2

Make the Lychee Mousse and Whipped cream frosting.
Place the milk soaked sponge layer within a pan or plate with edges (the cake may be moist and the milk syrup might leak out) 
Add a thick & even layer of Lychee mousse. 
Gently and carefully place another layer of the milk soaked sponge layer. Again top it with remaining Lychee Mousse.
Place the Last layer on top and Frost the entire Cake with Whipped frosting. 

Decorate as desired and Refrigerate until serving. 



Chocolate Lace collar

You'll need
Chocolate Candy Melts - approx 1 or 1.5 cups (Make sure you use tempered chocolate)
Piping Bag
Piping tip (optional) - I used Wilton tip # 2
Parchment Paper - cut to size to wrap around the cake

Directions

1. Melt the candy melts and pour into piping bag fitted with a tip.
2. Draw desired pattern or random designs on the parchment paper.
3. Gently lift and attach one end of parchment to side of the cake making sure the bottom of parchment paper aligns with bottom of cake. Wrap around the entire cake and refrigerate until the chocolate has hardened.
4. Gently peel off the parchment and reveal the beautiful chocolate lace!



After cake cutting we sat around and talked and laughed and then danced and partied all night long with in-between snack-breaks  and just enjoyed the rest of the day ;-) Once again Happy Birthday Manish Pillai.....we enjoyed your b'day just as much as you did and here's wishing you plenty more cake, happiness and success all life long...Muah!

Wanna see some of the cakes I've made for him till now for his earlier birthdays:



Chocolate Brownie Cake with rich Chocolate Ganache (recipe not on blog)




















I think I'm spoiling him with all these cakes I tell ya...next time I should make him bake me a cake ;-P 

-Manju

Mar 21, 2014

Palak Paneer ( Spinach cooked with Indian Cottage Cheese)


Hello everyone...hope you are all doing great! Things are going as usual at my end with office work, baby chores, home chores, cooking as usual, experimenting now and then with new dishes/bakes and yes, eating out and having fun with friends whenever we can. The climate's slowly getting better. We actually went for a short walk yesterday with Manish and my lil'guy  and though it was still slightly cold, it felt sooooo good to see what our neighborhood looks like after almost 6 months of chilling hibernation. I can't get enough of it and I just want it to be nice and warm soon and be out and about all the time :-D

Now coming to Palak Paneer.....who hasn't heard of this internationally famous dish? It's one of 'THE' most popular and commonly served vegetarian dishes in most Indian restaurants that I've been to and although it looks too green and kinda resembles baby food from some angles, due to the pureed spinach...hehe!...this dish is simply awesome! 
For a person who isn't a huge fan of spinach (except baby spinach) this is one dish I can wipe clean off my plate. It's so damn easy to prepare and did I mention it has creamy Paneer (Indian cottage cheese) in it, what's not to like about it then?!


Inspite of it not being my favorite green we buy it very often and it's a must in our grocery shopping list of 'veggies-to-buy'. I usually prepare thoran just like my turnip greens thoran or else sneak them inside omlettes etc. But making palak paneer is my most favorite option.

I have prepared palak paneer several times and the one thing I have observed is that it tastes great if the dish isn't overly spiced. Just a subtle hint of spice makes the dish's flavor shine out. And the masala made with onions-ginger-garlic-greenchillies-tomato gets a good smooth texture if minced very finely, unless you plan to puree it all with the spinach (like how I do usually).
For the Paneer, I buy frozen store bought paneer and they taste just fine to me, but you can definitely make your own. I prefer creamier chunks of paneer contrary to the fried pieces that's usually added, to avoid breaking the paneer pieces, but that's a personal choice and a better choice when making in large quantities for a party or potluck where there's more chance of the paneer crumbling up with too much stirring. When fried they hold their shape.


Palak Paneer is so easy and simple to prepare and you hardly need any fancy ingredients. It's best served with plain rice, jeera rice, naan or roti. I prepared some simple Jeera Rice with the jeera (cumin seeds) sauted in some butter for some flavor and served it with the palak paneer. The combo was so delicious that my lil'Appu also ate up his whole plate.


My recipe is very simple and so quick to prepare and as I said, very mild on the spices, so it's just perfect for feeding little kids as well and yet not at all compromising on the flavor. Manish really loved it and we finished the whole dish in two days :-)
I did not have coriander powder at home the day I made it and still it tasted great, which is why I have mentioned it as an optional ingredient. I bet it would taste twice as good with a little extra flavor from the coriander powder as well!

Palak Paneer


You'll Need
Fresh Spinach (chopped) - 2 bunches of spinach (as found in Indian stores) or 6 cups approx
Paneer- 8oz (cut into cubes)
Oil – 1tblsp + 2tblsp
Onions – 1 medium (diced finely)
Ginger – 1" pc, minced
Garlic – 4 cloves, minced
Green Chillies - 1 or 2, minced
Tomatoes – 1 large, chopped up  
Garam Masala - 2 tsp
Cumin Powder – 1 tsp
Turmeric Powder – 1/4 tsp
Coriander Powder – 1 tsp (optional)
Red Chili Powder – a pinch or to taste
Salt - to taste
Heavy Whipping Cream – 6 tblsp or to taste
Hot Water - as needed

Directions:
1. Wash well and pat dry the fresh spinach leaves with a clean kitchen towel. Cut into smaller pieces.
2. Heat a non-stick skillet and add 1 tblsp oil and saute the spinach leaves until cooked through and soft. Allow to cool down and keep aside.
3. In the same non-stick skillet add 2 tblsp oil and add the minced onion and cook until it's pink and soft.
4. Then add ginger-garlic and saute for few minutes. Finally put in the tomatoes and cook until the oil starts to release from the sides and makes a fine masala. Let this also cool down.
5. Now take the cooked spinach along with the  masala and blend it into a fine puree.
6. Add this puree into the skillet and add the spice powders - garam masala, turmeric powder, coriander powder (if using), and a pinch of red chilli powder and salt, give it a stir and cook on medium-low heat for 5 mins.
7. If gravy is too thick add some hot water (1 tblsp at a time) until desired consistency is obtained and cook it until it simmers slightly.
8. Now keep the heat on low and add in about 6 tblsp of cream (heavy whipping cream) and stir it well.
9. Finally add in the paneer and gently stir it around and turn off the heat and serve hot!

Suggestions:
1. I prefer a smooth & creamy (non-chunky) gravy so I puree the whole batch of spinach and masala, but if you prefer a chunkier version, only puree the spinach and leave the masala as it is at step #5.
2. Adding hot water at step #7 is to reduce the cooking time needed. If we add cold or room temp water cooking time will increase.
3. For a healthier option you can substitute Heavy cream with Milk. 

Other options:
1. Another way of cooking the spinach leaves is to blanch the leaves...i.e. Cook the leaves in a vessel of boiling hot water for 2-3 mins and quickly transfer the leaves to a bowl full of ice water. This will shock the leaves and quickly stop the cooking process and also provide a beautiful bright green color for the dish. 
2. You can shallow fry the paneer on both sides in oil. Drain them on paper towels and add the fried paneer into a bowl of cold water. Squeeze out any excess water before adding it to the gravy. This will keep the paneer soft yet less prone to breaking up.
3. For Vegan options substitute Paneer with Tofu and Heavy cream or Milk with Soy Milk or Almond Milk. 
4. Can use baby spinach or frozen spinach instead of fresh spinach.


This is one of my favorite ways to eat spinach and apparently my lil'Appu too doesn't mind eating Green rice ;-) I usually mix his rice with the palak paneer making his rice look all green before I give it him....that way he has no choice of eating only the white rice and has to eat everything and it definitely tastes better too. Clever huh!

Do try out Palak Paneer sometime and you'll see why it's such a commonly served dish at parties and at restaurants and inspite of the richness from the cream and paneer its a very healthy dish as well.

-Manju


Mar 17, 2014

Classy, Simple yet Elegant Mini Cakes.....


I've always been in LOVE with Cakes. Party cakes, tea cakes, tiered cakes, small cakes, big cakes, tiny or tall cakes...all kinds and varieties - you name it and I love it! My craze for cakes started from all long as I can remember. Along with the taste of the cake I've also had a good eye for noticing cake presentation in details like edible sugar pearls, buttercream decorations, flowers, fondant figurines etc and what excites me is the fact that its all edible.

Off-late I've been very fascinated by modern and elegant designs for cakes. Single colored cakes with some simple designs like a ribbon border or swirls or large centerpiece flower or chevron patterns or lace pattern etc that makes the cake look simple, yet classy and elegant. I've been watching a lot of video tutorials wherever available and also reading a lot of cake related blogs to know of various techniques and ofcourse to drool over the master creations they come up with.

Now coming to mini cakes, I just love this concept of making a miniature version of a full sized cake with almost the same kind of decorations and cake flavors and I've always wanted to try it. My ex-colleague inviting a few of us friends to her new home for a simple get- together proved to be the perfect occasion to take such pretty cakes.  

For the each mini cake I went with these simple yet elegant designs (as pictured below) 



1. I wanted a simple pattern with just the focus on a big flower so that's how I came with this pretty pink pompom cake neatly finished with a ring border that's slightly embossed. The pompom took me a whole one hour to make but it was so worth it. I felt this one was my neatest cake of the lot.

2. I wanted another simple and almost similar pattern with yellow too, so made three mini yellow pompoms and placed them on top and neatly bordered the bottom with a yellow fondant ribbon again mildly embossed with a different pattern

3. The upside-down hearts was an idea that just instantly came to my mind (I love s ;-) ) and I had the perfect sized heart cutter for it. I placed a pretty pink Daisy over the cake centred with a sugar pearl for a simplistic finish.

4. The Offset Chevron is a design I've always wanted to try and my favorite color combo is yellow and white so went with that.  I tried the ever famous wax-paper transfer method to get this pattern around the cake. I placed a pretty Yellow daisy on the top for a final touch again centered with a sugar pearl....Afterall Pearls are a girl's best friends ain't they....or was it diamonds? :-P 

There were few imperfections in the cakes. The untidily covered cake boards (my first try) and a few air bubbles within my fondant was what bothered me the most. But my friend's saw none of it.  The cake was a yummy Chocolate cake with rich chocolate buttercream and it tasted great! The cakes were 3" in diameter and around 3.5" in height.

I neatly placed each mini cake in individual treat boxes, all taped up and asked them to pick any box. They were all so surprised and all of them got completely unique and individual mini cakes. It was the perfect dessert sized cake and their kids just loved the marshmallow fondant and was simply happy that they could eat the flowers :-) 




The concept for making mini cakes is simple. I made a regular quarter sheet sized chocolate cake (can use any flavor) and used a small steel vessel of 3" diameter with sharp edges (had no cookie cutter of right size) to cut out circles of cake and stacked two circles together with chocolate buttercream, coated the sides also with buttercream and wrapped them in marshmallow fondant and kept the decorations simple yet elegant.



Mini Cakes are also a perfect way to practice multiple designs on different individual cakes without having to make a whole different cake for each decoration you want to try and practice on. So hope I've given you a new idea and inspired you enough to give it a try.

So which one is your favorite? :-)



Pompom flower tutorial : Rumana's blog
Offset Chevron pattern : Inspired by Jessica Cakes

-Manju

Feb 25, 2014

Patterned Swiss Roll with Pineapple and Cream filling


Am I too late in posting a valentine’s day treat? :-) Well let me state it out bluntly, I have been laaaazy this month. I have been vacationing and then working and then falling sick (a lot, thanks to our sub zero temperatures) and then when weekends roll by, we have so many lovely friends whom we get-together with and well I’ve been busy and lazy all at once.  So this lovely pretty cake that I made on Valentine’s Day and which I was planning to share with you all that very weekend had to wait this long.

Oh! And before I start rambling on about the cake let me share another happy happy moment. My interview for Mommy Page just got published. Yippeeee!! This is my first interview and the first of its kind after I started this blog, so I’m mighty proud about it. Go here and read all about it and then come back…Pretty Cake awaits you! ;-)


I have forever wanted to try a patterned roll cake.  I have seen several such cakes all over the internet and was always intrigued by the simplicity yet awesomeness of it. They are sooooo easy to make and I can’t help but blame myself for waiting this long to try it out. 

My first try at making this cake did not turn out as pretty as I had hoped for. Most of my decorative writing got stuck to the parchment paper  and the next issue was after I rolled up my cake, I allowed it to cool for a longer period, due to which my cake got stuck to the kitchen towel and more pattern came off, but my friends still loved it and the cake was a super hit!

Since I still had some more of the decorative paste left, I made it again the next day ;-) and was very careful not to repeat the mistakes I did. And voila! A pretty pretty cake it turned out to be.  It’s so fancy and yet a perfect way to decorate your cake specially if you do not want to use too much frosting on your cakes. 


The cake is a fatless sponge (yes, no butter or oil) and I did a Pineapple and Cream filling….yumm! This is not an eggless cake, but I will definitely try an eggless version soon for all those who asked me for one. 


I have tried to provide stepwise pics and it’s quite self-explanatory and yes I took too many pics of this lil'beauty queen and well, I hope you enjoy the pics as well. 



Patterned Swiss Roll with Pineapple & Cream filling
Recipe adapted from LRF

You’ll Need
For the decorative pattern:
1 Egg white
Granulated Sugar - 30 gm
All purpose flour - 40 gms
Butter (softened) - 20 grams
Color, as desired ( I used red and pink gel colors)

For the fatless sponge cake:
4 eggs, room temperature
Sugar - ¾ cup
All purpose flour  - 1 cup
Baking powder  - 1 tsp
Vanilla extract  - 1 tsp
Water  - 1 Tbslp

For Pineappale and Cream filling
1 cup whipping cream
1-2 Tblsp powdered sugar
Crushed Pineapple / Pineapple slices in juice (Del Monte brand) – One 20 oz can

Directions

Decorative paste for the pattern:
1. Grease a half sheet pan (I used 11”x 17” size). Place decorative template on one side of your pan and line it with parchment paper.  Grease the parchment paper.
2. In a bowl beat the egg white with a fork. Add in sugar and then the flour. Mix well.  Beat in the butter to make a smooth paste. Divide batter if necessary and color as desired.
3. Put in piping bags and using the template as a guideline, neatly pipe the pattern (If doing alphabets or number patterns, write it in mirror image). Remove the template.
Put in the tray in the freezer/fridge to harden up for at least 15-20 minutes while you make the cake batter.

For the fatless sponge cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. In a stand mixer, fit it with a beater blade or whisk attachment and beat the 4 eggs on high speed for 5 minutes. Gradually add in the granulated sugar and beat for another 5 minutes until the mixture is pale, thick and smooth. Stir in the vanilla extract.
2. Sift the flour with the baking powder in a separate bowl. Fold in the flour till well combined. But do not overbeat. Add the water and fold again gently.
3. Take the sheet pan with the piped pattern out of the freezer/fridge. Remove template from under the parchment paper. Pour the batter over the pattern.
4. Spread across evenly. Bake for 8-10 minutes (mine was done at 8 mins). The cake is done when you lightly touch the surface with the tip of your finger and the cake springs back and make sure it doesn't brown too much.
 5. While the cake is baking, sprinkle powdered sugar on a kitchen towel or sheet of parchment paper bigger than the size of your sheet pan. Once the cake is baked, flip it onto the sugar dusted kitchen towel/parchment paper
6. Once flipped over, pull the parchment paper out from the cake. Be gentle when taking out the parchment paper over the decorated area. Flip the cake over again carefully.
7. Now roll the cake with the kitchen towel, starting from the end opposite to your pattern.  Let sit on counter, rolled till it’s completely cooled.

For pineapple & cream filling:
1. While the roll is cooling, make the filling. Start by straining the pineapple from its juices and if using pineapple slices then chop it into smaller chunks. Else use strained crushed pineapple.
2. Whip the cream with the sugar till just about stiff peaks are formed. 

Assembly:

Unroll the patterned cake roll, and spread the whipped cream on top. Add the chopped/crushed pineapple on top. 

Now roll the cake tightly to form a log again, again starting from the end opposite your pattern such that the pattern rolls up on top in the end. You may cut out both the ends for a neater presentation and enjoy!

Note: Moisten/Brush the top of the cake roll with the strained pineapple juice if you feel its getting dried out. This will also remove any powdered sugar that got stuck to your roll after unrolling from the kitchen towel

And please use a washed and clean kitchen towel ;-)


Isn't each slice a work of art?....oh! I love this cake! And I shall definitely be trying out more patterns and varieties of these cakes and the filling options are endless...imagine making a simple jam roll so creative....c'mon go ahead, bake it right now and impress your family and yourself :-)

Here's me signing off with ...


-Manju :-)

Feb 12, 2014

Valentine's day Ideas :-)


Valentine's Day is just around the corner, infact it's this Friday (Feb, 14th). I bet some of you already know how you plan to spend this day of Love. Do we really need a special day to spend with our loved ones, you may ask....I have no real answer to that but I'm absolutely smitten about the idea and love to celebrate it. 
This year we are planning to spend it with friends...a grand dinner and then mayb a movie or some games. Anyways Valentine's Day is all about spending time with loved ones and I absolutely love that idea ;-)

This year I haven't come up with any new dishes but I want to share what I have done over the years and hopefully these will inspire you too to make a grand dinner or special dessert for that special someone in your life incase you haven't planned yet.

My most popular post and favorite Valentines Day dinner of all has been this special candle light dinner that I cooked all by myself at our home for my sweetheart 2 yrs ago. 
My baby was still too little to go out for a late night dinner so the best option was to keep it at home...Enjoy a romantic dinner while the baby sleeps ;-). Read all about it here.
These are the dishes I cooked up (yes all home-made):
                     Thai Fish Balls with Lime-Cilantro Mayo dip
Main course : Jerk Chicken served with Coconut Rice and Mango-Peach Salsa


Last year we did not make dinner plans, but instead my lil'boy and me got up really early and made a scrumptious breakfast before going off to work and daycare respectively :-) And yes, everyone got little V-day gifts as well!!


Here are few more ideas on how you can make something special to show your love in the form of food :)

Planning Banana bread for a V-day brekky? Well then you must try this fun and totally V-day worthy Banana bread with a hidden heart and wow your loved ones!! 


If your family prefer spicy dishes, make them a heart shaped Tuna Cutlets using a heart shaped cookie cutter ;-) Its super yummy and a winner recipe. If you do not eat non-veg, make a veggie version with your own recipe. 

Another cool idea I thought of was to fancy up even your glass of simple water with pretty Heart shaped Ice-cubes infused with fruits, citrus-peels or mint leaves. It definitely adds a sparkle and flavor to that glass of water!! 

One pot meals are always an easy option and there's no compromise on taste. Try out these simple rice dishes and pair it with wine and/or any decadent dessert of your choice. Keep it simple yet classy! 

Rich & Creamy Chocolate Pudding can never go wrong for a V-day dessert...it's so easy to make. And better yet, its Eggless :-)

Well, If it was upto me, I still have several more dishes that I can scoop out of my blog and share here as V-day special, but I'll leave that to you :-) Do feel free to check  out My Recipes list and pick out your favorite recipes and cook it up and enjoy your day.....

Happy Valentine's Day to all my readers! May you have a beautiful day and year ahead filled with Love and Happiness :-)

-Manju



Jan 30, 2014

Focaccia with flavorful Herbed Oil


Those of you who’ve been following my blog for a while now, knows my love for baking and experimenting with new recipes. Bread baking is something that I am still learning and with each new recipe I try I learn a new technique and I love the whole process.
Focaccia is similar to Pizza but with few variations. I have read that in Pizza dough the amount of yeast used is less resulting in a thin, flat and flexible crust, while focaccia dough uses more leavening, causing the dough to rise significantly higher (source: Wikipedia). Another difference is in the shape, Focaccia is often shaped into a square, oval or rectangle shape. Sometimes the toppings used are added into the Focaccia dough instead of being topped.

Anyways whatever the differences are, all I can say is that it’s a soft spongy bread with a lovely  crust on top, perfect for dunking into soups or stews. 



Several of my blog buddies have been baking this particular Focaccia recipe shared by Aparna and all their pics tempted me so much that I just had to try it out. The actual recipe was for a Focaccia Caprese (Focaccia topped with Caprese toppings along with Herbed oil) but fortunately/unfortunately for me I had none of the Caprese toppings available on hand...not even tomatoes, so I decided to just bake the Focaccia with the Herbed oil on top and it did not disappoint at all.

Now where do I begin raving about this Focaccia. The dough was so simple to make and it rose beautifully. The herb oil gets wonderfully absorbed by the bread while baking which creates a nice crunchy flavorful crust and the aroma and flavor seeps into the bread as well and finally yields a soft and spongy bread.



The Herb Oil is simply superb made using staple pantry ingredients and after brushing the Focaccia dough with the Herb Oil, you can later dunk your baked Focaccia into the same oil (if any leftover) and enjoy the bread, its just that good!

Focaccia with Herbed Oil

You’ll Need
For the Dough:
Active Dry Yeast – 2 ¼ tsp (1 sachet)
Luke warm water – ¼ cup
Sugar – 2 tsp
All-purpose flour – 3 ½ cups
Olive Oil – ¼ cup (can use any oil of choice)
Warm water – ¾ to 1 cup (use as needed)
Salt – 1 tsp
For the Herbed Oil:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – ¼ cup
Dried Oregano – 1 tsp
Dried Basil leaves – 1 tsp
Grated or minced Garlic – 2 or 3 cloves
Red Chilli flakes – ½ tsp
Salt – to taste


Directions
1. Mix together all the ingredients of the Herbed oil and keep aside.
2. First proof the Yeast:  Add 2 ¼ tsp yeast to ¼ cup warm water with 2 tsp sugar and let it stand for 10 mins undisturbed until it doubles in volume. If your yeast is active it will beautifully bloom and foam. (If your yeast doesn’t bloom even after 10-15 mins, throw it and make a new batch, else your dough will definitely not rise well)
3. Add the All-purpose flour, Olive oil, Proofed Yeast and Salt in to a bowl and using a kitchen aid stand mixer or your hands, knead the dough by mixing in ¾ cup to 1 cup warm water. Add water as needed to form a smooth yet mildly sticky dough.
4. Shape the dough into a ball and add it to a well oiled bowl and turn the dough around to coat all over and let it sit covered for about 1 hour until it doubles in volume.
5. Once the dough has risen, punch it down slowly and you can either bake it into a single focaccia covering your entire pan or 2 medium sized Focaccia or 4 smaller focaccias. (I divided the dough into two equal parts and used just 1 part and froze the rest for later use)
6. Take a 11x17 rectangular sheet pan and place wax paper  or silicon mat on it. Place your dough on it and roll it out smoothly into a rectangular shape  (I dint measure the dimensions of my focaccia, but a thick and roughly rectangular shape is good).  Let the dough rest again for 20 mins .
7. Oil your fingertips and create dimples in the dough. Brush the herbed oil all over generously.


8. Place it into the 450F pre-heated oven and bake for 16-18mins until it is almost done and turning golden brown. I rotated the tray after 10mins, again brushed the herb oil all over and baked for another 6 mins (so mine was done in 16mins)
9. Let the focaccia cool for few minutes , then serve warm and enjoy!

Suggestions:
1. If using Active Instant yeast, you need not proof it separately, just add it along with the flour and other ingredients for the dough with 1 tblsp sugar and make the dough as usual.
2. Actual recipe states to bake for 18-20 mins, but mine was good and golden brown after 16mins so keep checking towards the last few minutes.


The aroma, texture, taste everything about this focaccia was super-duper and both Manish and my lil’guy munched on them as soon as it was out of the oven. Even the mild spice from the red chilli flakes in the herbed oil din’t bother my lil’one. I quickly made a tortilla soup with chicken sausages and we dunked the yummy focaccia in it and ate up almost ¾th of the bread. 

My favorite portion of the focaccia were the sides, the crusty bread was simply a delight to munch on. I would suggest you all to give this a try, its really simple and remember, if I can bake bread, then you can too :-)

-Manju